The Marvel vs. DC Debate Is Tired. Comic Fans Unite!
Whether fans are enthusiastically listing the ways in which WandaVision subverted the superhero genre or extolling the virtues of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, the Marvel vs. DC debate rages on, stronger than ever. Both Disney and Warner Bros. have a packed slate for their respective onscreen comic powerhouses, and viewers have more superhero content than ever to choose from. This brings me to my main issue, which is, why do we have to choose at all?
DC left comics forever changed when Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster introduced Superman in 1938, ushering in an age of superheroes. However, Marvel certainly reinvented the genre with the launch of Fantastic Four in 1961, thanks to Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. Because of the Comics Code Authority overhaul of the ’50s, DC Comics had largely cornered the market prior to Marvel’s First Family entering the scene. Things got heated in the FF letter columns, with Lee trashing “the Distinguished Competition,” and while a rivalry certainly existed, there is a strong argument to be made that, at this point, it mostly only endures within the minds of fans.
Although DC and Marvel have indeed always competed in the strictest sense of the word, there doesn’t seem to be much bad blood between the companies. According to James Gunn, there is more a rivalry of Marvel and DC together against other movie genres, more so than Marvel vs. DC. He should know, having directed DC’s upcoming film, The Suicide Squad, as well as the Guardians of the Galaxy movies for Marvel.
Before the release of Captain Marvel, Shazam! star Zachary Levi pleaded with fans to stop review bombing the Marvel film, asking them to give up on unnecessarily pitting the projects against each other. Sure, both heroes were once called Captain Marvel, but aren’t we all winners because we got two good movies? Turns out, it’s possible to love Carol Danvers and Billy Batson.
The first comic I ever read was The Sandman. In high school, a friend loaned me volume 7, Brief Lives. I finished it in tears, though I wasn’t sure why, and felt compelled to track down the other volumes. It was impossible to stop staring at Dave McKean’s stunning covers, and I was completely enamored by the art of Jill Thompson, Colleen Doran, Marc Hempel, Mike Dringenberg, and so many others. After learning Neil Gaiman was an Alan Moore fan, I looked into him, as well, quickly devouring books such as Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and of course, Swamp Thing.
From there, I moved on to Batman, developing an obsession with the entire Bat-Family. (I can’t be the only one here with a huge Nightwing crush.) My love of Frank Miller’s work with the Dark Knight led me to his seminal run on Daredevil, and The Man Without Fear has been a favorite ever since, as has his sometimes paramour, Elektra. I fell hard for Bill Sienkiewicz’s unparalleled art in Elektra: Assassin, causing me to seek out his work on New Mutants, which tied into my newfound love of X-Men comics. I adored Marvel’s Marvelous Mutants so much that it became the first title I collected, searching shops all across the tri-state area for old back issues of Chris Claremont’s run.
Point being, I love Marvel and DC Comics. I always have, and I always will. Does it really matter that Moon Knight is a Batman analog when both characters have so many stories worth reading? Doom Patrol and X-Men have strikingly similar premises and launched within months of each other in 1963, but Grant Morrison did a stellar run on both books, joined by Richard Case on the former and Frank Quitely on the latter, among plenty of other incredible artists.
Ultimately, the companies are more alike than you might think. Both have attracted immense talent over the years, sharing tons of writers and artists who’ve put their unforgettable stamp on classic characters. In 2005, Judd Winick and Ed Brubaker resurrected long-dead sidekicks Jason Todd and Bucky Barnes, respectively. Brought to brilliant life by Doug Mahnke and Steve Epting, these fallen heroes reemerged as Red Hood and the Winter Soldier. Both arcs remain iconic stories for the Batman and Captain America titles, and are considered favorites by many comic readers. The ideas are similar, but the execution for each was quite different.
As for the movies, maybe you’re not a fan of Zack Snyder’s particular brand of cinema. To be honest, I’m not. I think he’s really good at what he does, but what he does just isn’t for me, and that’s okay. I loved Wonder Woman (not so much its sequel), Shazam!, and Birds of Prey, and am looking forward to several of DC’s upcoming releases. Aside from The Suicide Squad, we’ve got Matt Reeves’ take on the Caped Crusader with The Batman, Black Adam, and the long-awaited Flash movie, not to mention sequels for Aquaman and Shazam!
I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but I can see how some don’t appreciate the MCU’s now tried and true formula. That formula certainly exists, and though I never want to see Iron Man 2 again, Marvel has expanded their superhero oeuvre to include quite a few genres at this point. The way they’ve built this universe from the ground up is particularly impressive, and Phase Four is poised to introduce moviegoers to a roster of heroes they may not have met before with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Eternals, plus sequels for Spider-Man, Black Panther, and several others, as well as Black Widow’s much-anticipated solo film.
On top of all that, we have Disney+ and HBO Max preparing to bring us even more superhero content on the small screen. The future holds shows for Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight, John Constantine, Green Lantern, and so many more. Comic book properties are being more widely adapted than ever, and though I’ve worried maybe I’d grow weary of that, it hasn’t happened yet. There are still quite a few awesome superheroes that haven’t made the jump from page to screen, as well as a plethora of fantastic indie books that are just begging to be adapted. Speaking of which, if you love Marvel and/or DC Comics, check out your favorite writer or artist’s creator-owned work, as well! There’s way more to comics than “The Big Two.”
It just seems like, during a time when the validity of superhero movies as art is in question, that we, as fans, should band together. Look, I’m not trying to debate cinema with the likes of Scorsese or Coppola, because they would certainly win. I’m a huge fan of both, but the definition of what is or isn’t cinema is constantly evolving. While I do love to see original ideas, as a longtime comics fan, I am here for these adaptations, too.
No one is saying we should stop endlessly debating who would win in a fight between Thor and Superman. The Man of Steel did previously best the God of Thunder, but we can all admit they both deserved a better fight. A friendly rivalry is just that, but this one has gotten pretty ugly. Comics have long been a refuge for all manner of misunderstood outsiders, myself included. Toxic minority aside, it truly is a fandom for everyone. Honestly, we get enough people acting like real-life supervillains these days. We don’t need to argue amongst ourselves, and no one should ever have to choose between Young Avengers and Teen Titans. Comic fans unite!
(featured image: Marvel Comics)
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